Wearing a hijab is only part of Imani Sebri’s identity.
According to rahyafte (the missionaries and converts website): She said she has crushes and gets stressed about class, but is often reduced to the scarf she wears, not the woman she is — an issue the upcoming play “Hijabi Monologues” addresses.
“Hijabi Monologues” will be performed on the University of Texas campus for the first time on March 28. The episodic show has been interpreted by different groups of performers across the nation and focuses on the narratives of Muslim women and their experiences in the world, not the social or political discussions surrounding their scarves.
“I think people are going to listen to these stories and forget that people are wearing a scarf,” said Hanan Hashem, “Hijabi Monologues” producer and educational psychology graduate student. “They are going to connect with the person telling the story and the story itself. I think we’re trying to break that barrier of seeing the hijabi woman as being unapproachable or distant or different. We’re not.”
The stories, written and compiled by Muslim women across the United States in 2006, will be performed by students and touch on topics such as love, friends and family.
“As a hijabi who has seen these shows, I’ve always felt like, ‘Yes, that’s what I’m feeling,’” Hashem said. “You feel like your story is being told without you telling it, which is a lot of the time the most exhausting part about being a hijabi. You’re constantly having to showcase that all these stereotypes are wrong. This is a great way to do that without putting the burden on Muslim women all the time.”
The representation of Muslim women needs to go beyond television portrayals such as having strict parents or choosing to wear the hijab, said Sebri, international relations and global studies junior.
“The biggest thing I see is people not seeing hijabis as girls,” Sebri said. “We have the same problems that any other women would have. We are not really seen as having a full range of emotions or a full range of experiences. There are so many other identities we embody and ways we view the world.”
Hashem has previously produced the show at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where she finished her undergraduate studies. When she came to UT to pursue her graduate degree, she reached out to the Multicultural Engagement Center and met co-producer Joy Gassama.
“When I spoke to Hanan for the first time, I knew this is what we need,” said Gassama, government and Middle Eastern studies senior. “It is great to have these spaces where people share similar experiences, but when you are in spaces that have similar experiences it’s also important to remember that you’re not monolithic. You get into these spaces and you realize that everyone is super different and diverse, just like the rest of the world.”
“Muslim women are not just Middle Eastern or South Asian,” Hashem said. “There are white Muslim women, Latina Muslim women. We’re looking for people who can take the personalities of the characters and really showcase them.”